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Friday, April 27, 2018

CD Review: Erin McDougald - Outside the Soiree

Erin McDougald (Voice & Bandleader), Dave Liebman (soprano & tenor sax), Tom Harrell (trumpet & flugelhorn), Mark Sherman (vibes/perc), Rodney Green (drums), Chembo Corniel (perc), Rob Block (piano and guitar), Dan Block (alto, flute & clarinet), Cliff Schmitt (bass)
(Review by Dave Brownlow.)
A refreshing album from vocalist/leader Erin McDougald who drew her material from a wide range of sources, arranging eleven of the thirteen songs with accompanist Rob Block, and leading an accomplished small band featuring two more well-known soloists, Tom Harrell and Dave Liebman . Erin is highly thought-of in the music business and has drawn praise from many shrewd critics including the late Verve Records producer/arranger Buddy Bregman who states “Erin has a very deep soulful connection to the songs she chooses. Her pitch and phrasing are superb and she has something about her – she has ‘it’.”
One of the great things about jazz is the way that some musicians are able to ‘reinvent’ well-known songs using imaginative and creative arrangements to the surprise and delight of the listener and this is what happens here. The opener is a hard-swinging, bluesy Don’t Be On The Outside featuring Erin herself, then wailing solos from soprano, trumpet, vibes and piano which serve to introduce the group members.
Clever piano chords in ‘classical’ style introduce Begin The Beguine completely refreshing that old standard in a new light. Brother Can You Spare A Dime is totally re-imagined in a cha-cha style with fine work from the band including some flowing trumpet, darting flute, and fluent piano solos which re-invigorate that song.
The Eddie de Lange tune The Man With The Horn is taken at a slow tempo with the barest of accompaniment and features Farrell tightly muted in this plaintive version. The Lionel Hampton/Sonny Burke Midnight Sun has various time-signature changes which the band handle with ease and the vibes are well-featured as appropriate in this version.
The CD title-track Outside The Soiree is Erin’s original composition and is, in her own words “not easily digestible, not catchy but thought-provoking” and is in a mournful minor mode. The obscure 1950s ballad Don’t Wait Up For Me is turned into a 5/4 rhythmic vehicle where trumpet and soprano solo and Green on guitar provides another tone colour.
The Masquerade Is Over is played as a bossa-nova where both piano and guitar can be heard simultaneously (presumably through over-dubbing). Erin’s vocal expresses only too poignantly the message “The thrill is gone….” An up-tempo Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most is a hard swinger with effective solos from alto, vibes and voice and appropriate background obligati throughout the ensemble sections.
When The World Was Young/All The Sad Young Men are performed ‘straight’ with a pared-down guitar-led backing. Just a mention here for Rob Block who’s equally at home on piano or guitar and who co-arranged six of the songs with Erin – quite a talent! Linger Awhile segues quickly into Avalon at a frantic tempo and features a ‘chase’ sequence between guitar and trumpet and a couple of choruses from drummer Green.
Unusual Way ( a new song to me) comes from the Broadway musical ‘Nine’ based on Fellini’s semi-autobiographical film ‘8 ½’ This is arranged by Rod’s wife Tomoko and features warm clarinet and guitar solos in a haunting minor key. The stand-out track for me is the CD’s final cut The Parting Glass – a traditional Irish funeral hymn re-arranged and re-imagined in such a creative fashion. Lovely fat ‘Tynerish’ chords and a churning rhythm section provides the basis for emotive solos all round with Erin scatting her way to the conclusion in dramatic manner.
Overall, a likeable CD with many moments of quality available now on: 
Miles High Records MHR 8629 from www.flappergirlsings.com
Dave B.
(Editors note: This CD was reviewed by Ann Alex in March but, working on the premise that you can't have too much of a good thing, we've also posted Dave's review. It's a cracking CD! - Lance)

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